There’s a story explaining why, and it has to do with the first men who patrolled New Amsterdam in the 1650s.
Peter Stuyvesant established an eight-member “rattle watch” who were “paid a small sum to keep an eye on the growing, bustling town,” and look out for pirates, vagabonds, and robbers, according to one source.
“When the watchmen returned to the watch house after patrol, they hung their lantern on a hook by the front door to show people seeking the watchman that he was in the watch house,” states this NYPD recruiting website.
The top two photos show the relatively modern green lights of a Chelsea police house, on West 20th Street, and the Ninth Precinct on East Fifth Street in the East Village.
The loveliest old police lantern I’ve ever seen has to be the one outside the 108th Precinct in Hunters Point, Queens.
The facade of the station house is currently undergoing construction, so my photo (left) of the cast-iron, crica-1903 lantern doesn’t do it justice. Luckily Forgotten New York has a much better shot here. It’s a beauty!